Pregnancy with a period: Is it possible?
While some women may experience intermittent vaginal bleeding while they are pregnant, it isn’t possible to have a period. Menstruation only takes place in the absence of pregnancy.
Each month, ovulation occurs when your ovary releases an egg to be fertilized by the sperm. The uterine lining thickens in anticipation of a fertilized egg being implanted, which results in pregnancy. If an egg isn’t fertilized and implanted, both the egg and the uterine lining are shed through your vagina as menstrual blood.
So, can you have a period while you’re pregnant? The short answer is no. Since women don’t ovulate — or release an egg — during pregnancy, they will not get their monthly period.
How rare is it to be pregnant and have your period?
As already stated, despite all the claims, it isn’t possible to get your period while pregnant. Once the body starts the production of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), your periods stop.
Why you might experience a “period” during your first trimester
Though women stop getting their period during pregnancy, it’s possible that they may still experience some bleeding. This bleeding does not necessarily indicate an underlying issue, but it’s important to understand the cause of it — and whether you should see a doctor.
Bleeding tends to occur more often during the first trimester of pregnancy than the second or third. Estimates suggest that about 25 to 30 percent of pregnant women experience spotting at some point during their first trimester. There are a number of reasons for this bleeding.
Implantation bleeding: this refers to the light spotting that occurs about 10 to 12 days after conception, around the time when your period is due. Many women haven’t yet taken a pregnancy test at this point, so it’s easy to mistake the spotting for a period. This bleeding is lighter than a normal period, however, and only lasts for a couple of days. It occurs due to the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining.
Cervical changes: spotting can occur shortly after you get pregnant due to cervical changes, particularly after having sexual intercourse. As long as no infection is present, there’s no need to be concerned about this.
Other causes: heavier bleeding that more closely resembled a period during the first trimester of pregnancy can indicate something more serious, including:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Molar pregnancy
- Subchorionic hemorrhage, also known as subchorionic hematoma (bleeding between the placenta and the wall of the uterus)
- Gestational trophoblast disease (GTD), a rare group of tumors that arise from the cells that normally develop into the placenta
These are all medical emergencies, and it’s important to see a health care professional immediately. They are often accompanied by symptoms other than bleeding, including:
- Back pain
- Severe abdominal pain or cramps
- Loss of consciousness or faintness
- Shoulder pain
- Changes in vaginal discharge
- Uncontrollable vomiting and nausea
Bleeding later in the pregnancy: why it happens
We’ve already discussed why it isn’t possible to have a period during pregnancy, and why some women may experience light bleeding or spotting during their first trimester.
Bleeding during the second and third trimesters is possible, though not common, and it may be an indicator that something else is going on. If you experience bleeding later in your pregnancy, it’s important to see your doctor.
RELATED: Danger Signs in Pregnancy
Potential reasons for mid- or late-term pregnancy bleeding include:
- Sexual intercourse: having sex during mid and late pregnancy can cause some spotting or light bleeding due to the increase in sensitivity of the cervical and vaginal tissues during this time.
- Preterm or term labor: this refers to delivery of the baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. As cervical dilatation and uterine contractions generally occur to help the fetus move down and can result in bleeding and the passage of a large amount of vaginal discharge. Other symptoms include a backache, abdominal cramping, changes in vaginal discharge, and a sensation of vaginal pressure.
- Placenta previa: in this condition, the placenta is located close to or over the cervical opening. There are no symptoms other than the vaginal bleeding, and it may hinder labor and delivery.
- Placental abruption: placental abruption is a medical emergency that occurs during late pregnancy when the placenta starts separating from the uterine lining before the birth of the baby. It can cause heavy vaginal bleeding, as well as severe cramping and stomach pain. Certain health issues, like hypertension, may increase your risk of developing placental abruption.
- Uterine rupture: uterine rupture occurs when the uterine muscles tear or separate during labor. It’s considered a medical emergency, as it may result in uncontrolled vaginal bleeding. Though rare, the condition most often occurs in women who have a history of uterine surgery or cesarean delivery.
Bleeding in the second and third trimesters can also lead to termination of pregnancy or, more rarely, be a sign of vasa previa.
When you should see your doctor
Since you can’t get your period while pregnant, it’s important to be mindful of any bleeding you do experience during this time. While light bleeding or spotting during the first trimester is usually nothing to worry about, bleeding that is accompanied by other symptoms may indicate something more serious, and you should see a doctor immediately. These symptoms include:
- Cramping and pain
- Fainting or dizziness
- Passing clots or heavy bleeding
- Severe pain in your pelvis and stomach
You should also visit your doctor if your bleeding is bright red in color and is heavy enough to soak through a pad. Pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy may indicate an ectopic pregnancy. If you suspect this, see your doctor as soon as possible.
There’s a lot of discussion surrounding pregnancy and periods, and we want to clear things up. Can you have a period and be pregnant? No. Since your period stops after your body starts producing hCG — also known as the pregnancy hormone — it isn’t possible to experience a true period during pregnancy.
During the early stages of pregnancy, however, some women experience spotting or light bleeding — and it’s usually normal. This bleeding is called ‘implantation bleeding,’ and it happens when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining.
First trimester bleeding that happens alongside other symptoms (like dizziness or pain) may indicate a more serious issue, like an ectopic pregnancy, infection, miscarriage, molar pregnancy, subchorionic hemorrhage, or cervical changes. If you suspect an underlying cause for the bleeding, it’s important to seek out immediate medical attention.
It’s also possible for women to bleed during the middle and late stages of pregnancy. This bleeding is less common and may indicate a medical emergency such as preterm or term labor, placenta previa, placental abruption, or uterine rupture. Having sexual intercourse during these later stages can also cause bleeding, though it’s usually quite light.
If you experience bleeding as well as symptoms like cramping, pain, fainting or dizziness, passing clots or heavy bleeding, and severe pain in your pelvis and stomach, be sure to see your doctor right away.